This international maritime city is understandably proud of its splendid parks. Explore the underwater world of Finnish fish and admire the beautiful archipelago of Kotka.
Kotka lies on the Kymijoki estuary, and is a lively coastal city where the sea has always played an important role in its daily life. The city – originally established on the island known as Kotkansaari – has, over time, spread to the mainland, but has not forgotten its roots as a centre of maritime activity. Any trip to Kotka should include a visit to the Maritime Centre Vellamo, to learn about the history of the Kymenlaakso region and its seagoing past. Stroll around Kotka’s many parks, the most acclaimed of which is the Sapokka Water Garden, established where the sea protrudes inland.
A large number of Kotka’s most interesting sights are on Kotkansaari Island, and they are easily reached on foot. Begin your city break in Kotka with a stroll along the splendid Veistospromenadi (Sculpture Promenade), in the city centre. Numerous statues by famous Finnish sculptors and artists line the avenue of linden trees between Sibelius Park and Toivo Pekkanen Park. Many of Kotka’s best shops, including those in the Pasaati Shopping Centre and the old Market Hall, go on for a couple of miles in the city.
Kotkansaari Island has a number of carefully-tended parks laid out in a grid pattern, offering shade to their many visitors. Explore Isopuisto (Great Park), established at the beginning of the 19th century around the Church of St Nicholas. The park is a successful version of an English place of leisure, whose abundant flora reflects the original features of the terrain. The small and alluring Fuksinpuisto Park is full of azaleas, which are at their best in early summer.
You could plan an interesting and inexpensive holiday to Kotka and simply stroll through its parks. Besides those in the central part of the city, there are two gems right by the sea. In the Sapokka Water Garden there are small brooks, ponds and a waterfall almost 20 metres high which shines at night with magnificent colours. Katariinan Meripuisto is a park and outdoor activity centre covering 20 hectares and lying at the tip of Kotkansaari Island. Explore the meditative labyrinth of the park, and play on the xylophone embedded in stone as you stroll across the verdant lawns.
After you have toured the city’s parks, you should visit its most interesting indoor sights, the Maritime Centre Vellamo and the Kotka Maretarium. The former consists of two museums, which you can conveniently visit on one ticket. The Kymenlaakso Museum celebrates the everyday existence of the region’s people, and the Finnish Coast Guard’s tales of heroism. It also houses a collection of hand-carved boats. The Finnish Maritime Museum is a record of seagoing history, from the 17th century up to the present day.
Kotka Maretarium is a unique destination for visitors, where you can learn about Finnish fish species housed in aquaria. Take a peep at the Baltic Sea tanks, and marvel at the misshapen bullheads and the darting Baltic herrings. The water comes directly from the sea, so the residents live according to the fluctuations of the seasons. The tanks contain fish from all over Finland – and even as far away as the streams in the fells of Lapland.
While in Kotka, it is also worth seeing the islands off the coast. Take a boat to Varissaari or Kaunissaari, both great places to chill out. You could also attend the Kotka Maritime Festival, when the city’s lovely parks set the scene for a whole range of events.